The Process of Building a New House
Most shoppers in the market for a new home follow the same path to home ownership that their friends and neighbors do, which is to buy one. Some do-it-yourselfers choose the old-fashioned way, which is to build their own home. Building your own home is not for the faint-hearted, but it can be done by following directions outlining the process of building a new house.
The first step is proper site preparation, which makes it easier to lay a solid foundation. After trees, rocks and debris are removed, the lot is leveled if necessary. Homes are built on top of either on a basement, a crawl space or a slab, which is a concrete pad poured directly onto the ground. Depending on which type of foundation is chosen, different steps are followed to complete this stage. When using a slab foundation it is important to put the sewer pipe and the electrical conduits in place before the pouring begins. A crawl space is made of cinder block, with a brick facing. When constructing a basement, pouring it in three pieces, with beams, walls and a concrete slab inside the walls, keeps it waterproof.
After the foundation is completed the framing crew builds the floor, unless the house is being built on a slab foundation, in which case the slab is the floor. Building a floor begins with pressure-treated lumber supported by a beam running down the center of the house, and 2-by-10 joists. Once the floor framing is finished, it is covered with 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).
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The framing crew next starts on the exterior walls, which are assembled on the floor and raised into place. The walls are made from 2-by-4 lumber and covered on the outside with OSB sheathing. Using plywood or OSB as the sheathing makes the walls stronger and more rigid. Each 2-by-4 is carefully placed 16 inches away from the center of the next board. The exception to this 16-inch pattern is making space for the windows and special framing for the house's interior walls, once they are built. The plywood gets cut out of the window openings as construction proceeds. As each exterior wall is completed, it is insulated with in pink "housewrap."
After the walls, the roof is put on. To get the proper angle to the roof, trusses are used. Trusses are pre-fabricated, triangulated wooden frames used to support the roof. An alternative to using trusses is to build up the frame of the roof using 2-by-8 and 2-by-10 pieces of lumber. Trusses have their advantages, but also come with a drawback. They are strong, generally less expensive than 2-by- 8s and 2-by-10s, they can be custom built, they are not load bearing, and they can be built quickly. Unfortunately, trusses do not allow for attic space. The trusses are attached to the walls with metal plates. One they are up, the roof is covered with plywood or OSB.
In addition to the basic interior rooms, some homes have a garage or a porch. When building a garage, its walls are constructed differently than the walls of the house. The garage has a slab floor, and its walls are bolted directly to the brick foundation walls. Some homes have a breezeway connecting them to the garage. The porch is built on brick supports, starting with the frame, then adding the floor on top. Roof trusses are placed over the porch before that section of the roof is finished.
By this time, the house is taking shape. The next step is completing the windows and doors.
When the windows and doors arrive, plastic stripping is stapled to the inside of the window and door openings. The windows are placed in each window opening and stapled in place from the outside. When placing the doors, the rough opening should be plumb and the subsill level before applying caulk along the subsill and up the sides of the rough framing. Place the door into the opening and shim the frame tightly into place. Adjust the rest of the door frame as needed to hold it in place.
To finish off the roof, many homes use standard asphalt shingles. The first step is to cover the roof with tar paper, then nail down the shingles on top. At the edge of the roof the shingles are cut off with about two inches of overhang. For Spanish roofing tiles, the underlining is nailed down first, followed by wooden batten strips spaced out with enough room to lay the individual tiles. The batten strips are nailed to the roof underlining. Using chalk to determine the pattern of the tiles will help line them up properly. The tiles are hung by their lugs onto the wooden battens beginning at the lower edge of the roof and working upward.
Home exteriors vary, and some are brick while others are stucco or have vinyl siding. When putting up vinyl siding, crews start at the bottom and interlock the sheets into each other as they go up. For brick walls, bricklayers place each brick evenly separated with mortar, beginning at each end of the wall and working their way inward, going row by row. For stucco, a trowel is used to scoop stucco mix from a wheelbarrow onto a masonry hawk. The flat side of the hawk is used to carry some stucco mix to the wall, then the trowel is used to apply the mix to the wall. After the first coat dries, a second coat is needed.
Now that the outside of the house is done, it's time to focus on the inside.
Rough plumbing installation begins with proper septic tank installation according to the uniform plumbing code. After that, the plumber runs sewer lines from the sink or toilet to the septic tank. A "P-trap" must be installed at every drain opening to prevent fumes from the septic tank from floating up the sewer line to the sink and into the bathroom. Vent pipes are also needed to allow the pressure from the fumes to escape. Also important is installing water lines, sewer lines and bathtubs properly. When it's time for the rough electrical work, the electrician first places the boxes for electrical outlets, lights and switches, then wires the house for electricity.
Interior insulation requires installing foam channels into the eaves, over which a thin plastic barrier is placed to keep moisture inside. Drywall installation follows, then the pouring of the concrete slab on the garage floor if the home has a garage. The builder finishes up by putting down underlayment on the floor, doing the HVAC work, finishing the electrical work, putting in kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters, painting, carpeting, tiling, and reviewing the final punch list to make sure nothing was forgotten.
So from start to finish, there are many steps in the process of building a new house. Because of its complexity, this type of project is best left to professionals.